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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23519

Mr PEARCE (9:05 PM) —I want to take the opportunity this evening to update the House on the latest developments relating to the Scoresby Freeway, which many members know is a very important issue—in fact, the most important issue in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Members will of course be aware that the Bracks state Labor government have disgracefully gone back on their pre-election promise not to impose tolls on this freeway and, in April, made an announcement to impose tolls. I was absolutely amazed last week to read an article published in the Age on Thursday, 27 November, titled `Unspent $200 million meant for roads, transport'. The article states:

More than $200 million that was earmarked for roads and public transport remained unspent by the state government, an Auditor-General's investigation into the state's finances has found.

In his annual report on the Government's finances, Auditor-General Wayne Cameron highlighted the $207 million kept by the Department of Infrastructure—

Mr Hartsuyker —How much?

Mr PEARCE —There was $207 million kept by the Department of Infrastructure. He said:

... any money unspent by government departments at the end of the financial year should have been repaid into consolidated revenue.

The article continues:

Treasurer John Brumby described the matter as a “technical accounting issue”, and said the money would end up being spent on roads and public transport.

He went on to say:

“This is all money which is allocated for roads, so we know where we're going to spend it; it just hasn't been spent at this point in time.”

Here we have a state Labor government that said it could not build the Scoresby Freeway because it did not have the money in the budget. We now have the Victorian Auditor-General saying in his report that there is over $200 million unspent in the roads budget. So, on the one hand, they are saying, `We can't keep our election promise and make the Scoresby Freeway toll-free because we've got no money,' and on the other hand we have the incompetent Steve Bracks and the even more incompetent Peter Batchelor underspending in the roads and transport area by $200 million. All I can ask, on behalf of everybody who lives in my electorate and in fact the whole Scoresby corridor, is: could the Bracks government please stop short-changing all of us who live there and everybody who works there, and at least spend the unspent money that was set aside for roads in Victoria? Could they at least spend it on roads and, in particular, start building the Scoresby Freeway, which is what they promised to do before they were elected at the last state election?

What this Auditor-General's report demonstrates is that the Bracks government are totally incompetent; they cannot meet their commitments, they cannot build a damn thing and they certainly cannot build anything in line with what they promised. The most hypocritical thing is that on the one hand the Bracks government cry poor but on the other hand they have this money. All members should also remember that, on top of this unspent money, the Bracks government refuse to help themselves by walking away from the memorandum of understanding that they signed with the Commonwealth and the $445 million already allocated to them.

Mr Baldwin —Their signatures are worth nothing.

Mr PEARCE —As my colleague the member for Paterson just said, a Victorian Labor government signature is worth nothing. You cannot trust the Victorian Labor government, you cannot trust Steve Bracks and you cannot trust Peter Batchelor to stick to what they say before an election. You cannot trust them to honour a signed commitment that they made with the Commonwealth government. The money is there for the project to get started now—without tolls. If Bracks and Batchelor and the whole of the Victorian Labor Party were serious about the best interests of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, they would do the right thing: they would honour their election promise and build the Scoresby Freeway now. Every single member of the federal Labor Party should be calling on their Victorian Labor Party comrades to insist that they meet their election promise. (Time expired)